FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2009
CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Equality California
PHONE: 916-284-9187 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
State of California Urges Passage of Federal Hate Crimes Law
EQCA Sponsored Resolutions Put California on Record in Support of Matthew Shepard Act
Sacramento -- The State of California officially endorsed a federal law combating hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals today when the state Senate passed the Federal Hate Crimes Resolution. The State Assembly passed a companion measure in June. Together, the resolutions, sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), call on the United States Senate to immediately pass the Matthew Shepard Act, which expands the landmark 1969 United States federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's real or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
The Assembly version, introduced by Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), passed by a strong 53-13 bipartisan vote. The identical Senate version of the resolution, introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), passed 22-6, also by a bipartisan vote.
"It is time the federal government fulfills its obligation to protect and empower the people of this nation, including LGBT people," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We applaud the U.S. House for passing this necessary legislation and now look to the Senate to immediately do the same."
On April 29th of this year, the U.S. House passed the Matthew Shepard Act by a vote of 249 to 175. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a companion bill as early as tomorrow.
"California has already passed state laws against hate crimes," said Senator Kehoe. "Now is the time for our federal government to do the same so we can better protect all people, including members of the LGBT community."
"Californians believe every human being is entitled to the same basic dignity and protection under the law," said Assemblymember Nava. "Our President and our Senate must make this crucial legislation into law to both help our local law enforcement and curb violence against the LGBT community."
The federal bill, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named after Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was targeted, tortured and brutally murdered by two men in 1998 because of his sexual orientation. The resolution also urges President Barack Obama to sign the federal legislation immediately following its passage by both Houses of Congress.
Thanks to the work of EQCA and its predecessors, California is one of 32 states (including the District of Columbia) where sexual orientation is already included in state hate crimes laws and one of only 11 states where gender identity is included. EQCA has consistently led efforts to strengthen the state's anti-discrimination laws, including sponsoring 2004's Omnibus Hate Crimes Act, 2006's Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act and 2007's Student Civil Rights Act. More information on these bills and EQCA's other work combating hate crimes can be found on EQCA's website, http://www.eqca.org/legislation.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil-rights protections in the nation. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org